Kragthorpe looking to JUCO ranks for help

Though his team still has one more regular-season game remaining next Thursday at Rutgers, Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe appears equally focused on his program's recruiting efforts as he is on preparing his team for the Scarlet Knights.

It's been a rough season for Kragthorpe's Cardinals. Despite a 5-2 start to the season, Louisville has lost its last four games and faces the possibility of a losing season for the first time in more than a decade. That's why Kragthorpe spent considerable time talking about recruiting on Monday.

With a little more than two months before National Signing Day, Louisville currently checks in at No. 75 in the recruiting rankings. Clearly Louisville has some work to do as the Cardinals now find themselves behind seven C-USA schools in the rankings and ahead of only Syracuse in the Big East.

Besides preparing his team for a final game at Rutgers next Thursday – a game that would make the Cards bowl eligible if they win - Kragthorpe and his staff are also burning the midnight oil on the recruiting trail.

"From a local standpoint we'll get out a little bit and then some of our coaches will leave (next) Wednesday morning and see some prospects and then meet us Wednesday night in preparation for the game," Kragthorpe said.

Kragthorpe's top recruiting priority is the defensive line. That's because three of Louisville's four starting defensive linemen graduate this year and there's little depth waiting in the wings to step up next season.

"Defensive line certainly comes to mind because we lose some very good players – Maurice Mitchell, Adrian Grady and Earl (Heyman)," said Kragthorpe. "We've got to get some guys that can come in and play immediately."

Injuries to young players like redshirt freshman Zach Kiernan has further complicated the problem.

"Zach Kiernan getting re-injured (hurts)," Kragthorpe said. "We hoped he would become a role player this last season and move into a starting position next year. That possibility still exists and I think he'll make it back but it's more unknown with his timetable. So we've got to get some guys in here that can play pretty quickly there."

Louisville is looking to the junior
college ranks to replace
Adrian Grady and three graduating
d-line starters.

Expect Louisville to hit the junior college ranks hard to shore up a lack of depth and experience on the defensive line.

"On the defensive line we're going to have to get a couple of junior college prospects," said Kragthorpe. "We've got to get guys that can come in and play immediately because of the lack of depth we have there.

"We're going to have to have some guys step up and play immediately. We were in that position last year at linebacker and I think those guys have done a nice job. I would love to have that type of productivity in our defensive line next year with the situation that we're in in terms of bringing guys in that don't have a lot of experience at the Division I level."

Kragthorpe said the Cardinals also face a similar situation on the offensive line, where two starters – center Eric Wood and tackle/guard George Bussey – graduate.

"I think the same situation exists on the offensive line," Kragthorpe said. "We've got some guys we think can play but we lose two all-conference players in Eric and George. So we've got to fill those holes quickly with guys that can get it done."

Louisville will also be looking to replenish a secondary that has been depleted by injury this season and will be hit hard by the graduation losses of Woodny Turenne, Bobby Buchanan, Travis Norton, Marcus Folmar and Sergio Spencer. Four of Louisville's seven current commitments are defensive backs.

"We've gotten a little bit depleted (injuries) in the secondary," Kragthorpe said. "The silver lining is that Richard (Raglin) and L.T. (Latarrius Thomas) will be back next year. But we've got to secure more depth in the secondary."

Last year, Louisville relied heavily on junior college transfers to fill out their recruiting class. The Cardinals signed 11 JUCO transfers last year. Kragthorpe hopes he doesn't have to sign that many junior college players this time around.

"I don't think we'll be as heavy in the overall class (with JUCO's) as we were last year but on the defensive line we're going to have to have some guys that play real fast," he said.

Kragthorpe also hopes to add another quarterback to his 2009 recruiting class. The Cardinals currently have a verbal commitment from Washington, D.C. standout Emmanuel Yeager but Louisville has been mentioned with a couple of JUCO QB's in the last week.

"I think we definitely need to get another quarterback in here," Kragthorpe said. "We're going to open up this quarterback position because we feel like we don't have a guy with significant experience. We've got to have a guy that can step up and be our leader. I am looking for a guy who can make some plays with his feet."

Besides addressing immediate needs on both lines, in the secondary and at quarterback, Kragthorpe says he wants to add more speed to his roster.

"Speed..I think speed is the biggest difference in football in the last 15 years," said Kragthorpe. "It seems to me that now the defensive line runs like linebackers, the linebackers run like secondary guys and the secondary guys have become warp speed.

"I think two things (we'll address) – defensive line simply because of the needs we have right away and certainly speed. We've got to continue to bring guys in here that can run and make plays on the offensive side of the ball and minimize those wide-open spaces (on defense)."

Louisville hosted several prospects on official visits last weekend but no commitments have surfaced from that group yet.

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